At this year's Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, while many in the crowd were following the competition's leaders, a few were keeping an eye on an up-and-coming gray Thoroughbred.
Ridden by veteran equestrian Buck Davidson, 9-year-old Titanium performed an elegant dressage test, enthusiastically threw himself over each jump on the cross-country course and was one of only seven horses to clear every rail in the stadium jumping within the time allowed.
The pair finished 16th. The ride was a marvelous first-time effort for "Ty" and pure victory for retired racehorses.
"It was the happiest 16th place I'd ever been," Davidson said. "He wasn't really ready for it, but he stepped up and did more than he knows how to do. ... It's so cool to have a horse that didn't make it as a racehorse making it at our game."
Five years ago, such a future must have seemed unlikely for Titanium. But he's an example of what can happen when failed racehorses get another start.
And it's the kind of transition many in the racing and breeding industries, horse sports and animal rescue organizations are working to make happen every day.
Flash back to the Fourth of July 2005. Titanium finished ninth in a field of 10, more than 14 lengths behind the winner.
After a career that began at Belmont and Saratoga, the Kentucky-born Titanium had won only one race and less than $12,000. He had landed at State Fair Park in Lincoln, Neb., where he had just lost for the second time.
On that day in July, anyone with $5,000 could have claimed him. Nobody wanted him, at least nobody in Nebraska.
"This poor sucker's at the bottom of the barrel," thought Candi Cocks, who trains steeplechasers with her husband, William, in Camden, S.C.
Candi Cocks had followed Titanium's career from afar ever since she spotted him in a 2003 sale catalog. As Titanium slipped down the racetrack rungs, Cocks had called his various owners along the way to say, if you ever want to sell him, I'm interested.
Two years later, when he was finally unloaded in Camden, she felt like she had hit a home run. She hoped to make him a steeplechaser like his half-brother, Niello, but the kind-eyed amiable gelding just didn't have it in him.
"I think he didn't want to run," Cocks said.
But he liked to jump. "He jumped anything you put in front of him," Cocks said.
Read more of this story at Kentucky.com